MarQueis Gray has one game left in his star-crossed Gophers career, and he wants to make the most of it.
By TYLER MASONFS North
MINNEAPOLIS —MarQueis Gray has held a lot of titles during his four years on the Gophers football team. Wide receiver. Quarterback. Wide receiver again. Teammate. Friend. Father.
And, as of Wednesday, husband.
Just over two weeks before his Gophers play Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Gray will marry his longtime girlfriend, Alley Behr. As recently as last week, Gray wasn't sure if the wedding would still be on, given that he and Minnesota are in the midst of bowl game preparations. But after talking with head coach Jerry Kill, Gray will get married on 12/12/12. (The date is significant for Gray and Behr because their 1-year-old twin sons, MarZell and MarShawn, were born last year on 11/11/11.)
Normally, preparing for a wedding on top of studying and playing football would be stressful. Not so much for Gray.
"Planning for the bowl game (is more stressful) because I don't have to do anything for the wedding," Gray said. "All I have to do is show up."
When his wedding is past, Gray will have his sights set on his final game in a Gophers uniform. The bowl game on Dec. 28 in Houston will be the culmination of a long and winding four-year career for Gray at Minnesota. After playing wide receiver for two seasons, Gray transitioned back to quarterback as a junior. He led the team in rushing yards last year, but Minnesota missed out on a bowl game and finished 3-9 for the second straight year.
A high ankle sprain suffered against Western Michigan sidelined Gray for a few games this year. When he returned, it was at wide receiver, not quarterback. It was easier to get him on the field at that position if he wasn't 100 percent healthy.
Gray will likely be the No. 2 quarterback in the bowl game behind freshman Philip Nelson, now that sophomore backup Max Shortell announced he is transferring. Just how many snaps, if any, Gray will get at quarterback against Texas Tech remains to be seen, but the Indianapolis native said he's gotten reps at both positions in bowl practices.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Gray knows that his best chance to play in the NFL will likely be at wide receiver. Still, he'd like to perhaps get a few snaps at quarterback in the bowl game for one last hurrah at the position.
"It'll probably increase my chances of going to the next level," Gray said. "Just going out there and playing both and making plays, we'll see what happens."
The exposure that Minnesota's bowl game will get could be big for Gray and others looking to make names for themselves. Gophers-Red Raiders will be the only bowl game played the night of Dec. 28.
It will also be broadcast on ESPN, which means the college football world will be keyed in on the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
"Being that it's the only game on ESPN that night, I have no choice but to go out there and show what I have," Gray said. "This is our last game. We've just got to go out there and show what we can do."
A married man, a father of twins, a wide receiver, a college senior. Gray has indeed held a lot of titles at Minnesota. Recently, he was given one more: team MVP.
At the Gophers' year-end banquet late last month, Gray was awarded the Bronko Nagurski Award as the team's most valuable player. It was the second year in a row in which Gray won the award.
"I think it's the respect more so of the unselfishness of his situation. He's been hurt. He still hung in there," Kill said. "I think everybody knows athletically what he does bring. It's been frustrating for him. But I think it really has to do with more a situation where he's been a good teammate. Not that he's not an MVP or anything of that nature, but the majority of that is that he's a very good teammate."
Gray is just one of many seniors who have endured a lot during their time on campus. They've gone through two head coaches — first Tim Brewster, now Kill. Some, like Gray, have switched positions at some point in their careers. And there have been more losses than wins along the way.
For Gray, though, it's been a memorable career.
"I've done a lot of stuff here, a lot of ups and downs," Gray said. "But I know it's going to stick with me for the rest of my hopefully long-term career playing football. If not, I'm still going to have fun. I have no regrets coming here."